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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE   CHINESE   MIND
whether is it true or not, but "so people say," and he is not interested in undertaking a research to verify it. It is a state of mind that belongs to the borderland of truth and fiction, where truth and fiction are pleasurably and poetically mixed3 as in a dreamer's tale.
VI. IMAGINATION
This naweti we must try to understand, for it brings us to the world of the Chinese imagination and Chinese religion. By religion, I mean a good heaven and a hot hell and real, living spirits, and not the "kingdom . . . within you" of the Boston Unitarians, or the belief in the impersonal and amorphous "Power in and around us, which makes for righteousness" of Matthew Arnold.
This world of the imagination is not confined to the illiterate. Confucius himself exhibited a certain naiveti regarding the spirits when he said, "If one were to try to please the god of the south-west corner of the house, it would be preferable to try to please the god of the kitchen stove." He spoke of the spirits with an ease of mind which was truly charming: "Offer sacrifices to the spirits as if the spirits were present," and "Respect the spirits, but keep them at a distance." He was willing to let the spirits exist if they would let him go his own k way.
Han Yti, the great Confucianist of the T'ang Dynasty, continued this naive attitude. He was officially reprimanded and compelled to go to the neighbourhood of modern Swatow to serve as a magistrate, and when this district was suffering from an invasion of crocodiles, he wrote a high-flown sacrificial appeal to the crocodiles. The crocodiles seemed to appreciate his literary style (for he was one of the best writers in China's history), and, according to his own testimony, they disappeared from the district. It would be futile to ask if he sincerely believed in it or not. To ask that question is completely to misunderstand the situation, for his reply would most probably be: How can I know it is true, but how can you know it is untrue? It was an agnosticism which openly